By Oguejiofo T. Ujam
One indubitable and generally acceptable legacy of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in Enugu State is the existence of social harmony and peace. In Ugwuanyi, it is as if nature purposed that everything should be in good order, because his tenure as governor brought about the conclusion of the rotary movement of the governorship among the three senatorial districts of the state.
Within the past 22 years, the people of Enugu State have witnessed less political bickering, except during the build-up to the 2003 general elections. At that period there was an attempt to deny Governor Chimaroke Nnamani his constitutionally sanctioned access to a second term with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Many Enugu citizens still remember how some political godfathers descended on the Enugu State House of Assembly in search of sixteen members to make up the two thirds number required by the constitution to impeach Governor Nnamani. If that attempt had succeeded, one out of about 28 governorship aspirants already assembled for the takeover would have been imposed on PDP.
By the time Hon. Anyalewechi from Oji River joined 14 other members and the strong mahogany doors serving as the Gate to the Assembly chambers were broken into, the mutineers still did not get the required number to begin the process of impeachment despite that that was in an era when it took as few as eight lawmakers to impeach a state governor.
During that political insurrection in Enugu State, one thing was very clear. The people were passively, but morally opposed to a forceful change of government regardless of whatever negative public perception was woven around the incumbent governor.
Next to that, Enugu did not want the disorder and reign of impunity, which that impeachment attempt would have invested on the state’s polity. Most importantly, Governor Nnamani was in the good books of the national leadership of PDP, especially the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. All these factors combined to make it impossible for the lawmakers and their sponsors to uproot the Enugu State Chief executive and recreate the hand of the political clock in the state.
Nearly twenty years after that inglorious political drama, Enugu State is about to face another dangerous plot against another incumbent governor. By 2023, Ugwuanyi would be rounding off his second and final term in office as governor.
And, just as it began in 2003, when political actors started gathering to hatch unpopular plots against the normal, even constitutional flow of politics in the state, some political wannabes have started ganging up. Within the emerging dangerous narratives currently being spread in Enugu State, three broad groups have amassed themselves with the obvious intention to destroy the bedrock of peace and social harmony, which Governor Ugwuanyi has enthroned in the state.
Weeks back, some of these dubious tendencies, hiding behind a patently clannish political grouping, Odimma Nsukka, reared their heads with the obnoxious argument that Governor Ugwuanyi should be encouraged to support another Nsukka man or woman to succeed him in office in 2023.
Though many speakers addressed the crowd during their meeting, the tenor of Senator Chukwuka Utazi and Okechukwu Ezea’s speeches did not hide the ominous import of their postulations. Their noxious delivery was such that the moderating voice of former state PDP chairman, Vita Abba, did not succeed in mollifying the toxicity of their vituperations.
Here is a bit of what Okey Ezea, a serial governorship contestant in the state said: “I am sure Odimma Nsukka is working for the betterment of Nsukka. I commend all those going about in Nsukka, but I have not heard you talk about the main message. The main message is that come 2023 an Nsukka man or woman would succeed Ugwuanyi. I am not afraid to say it. Quote me anywhere.
“By the workings of God, the governorship has rotated. We are at the last lap. As those who grew up in the village, fetched water from the streams and firewood from the farms, we know that if you are sharing anything, by the time the last person takes he should be the first to start the next round.
“Equity and natural justice demands that we have to begin another round. We do not maltreat people, we are not like Orlu or Tiv; we are fair-minded. We have the numbers and the demographic advantage. We must go out and look for it. We have done it before we shall do it again. Let us remove partisanship from it. Nsukka is well positioned to be beneficial to everybody.”
When it came to the turn of Senator Utazi, who arrogates to himself the leadership of Nsukka by virtue of being the ‘highest’ elected political office holder from Enugu North zone, he spoke tongue in cheek.
Utazi explained that the purpose of the political mobilization of Nsukka people is to unite behind Governor Ugwuanyi and pray that he finishes strong.
It was obvious that while they mouthed support for the governor, Ezea and Utazi deftly presented what could pass as a facetious excuse for poor performance on the part of the governor. Utazi recalled how the governor noted at a previous unity rally in Nsukka High School that upon his inauguration, expectations were so much that it cannot be fulfilled in eight years. The Senator therefore argued that the imperative of the political reality is that since there are basically two political zones in the state, namely, Enugu and Nsukka zones, the Nsukka zone should take another eight years. He said it is on record that from 1999 to 2015 the Enugu zone had served for 16 years, adding that Nsukka zone must take its 16 years.
Utazi said it must not be Governor Ugwuanyi saying so, “but it is our duty to go and plead with him as people of Nsukka zone. We have to be courageous and single-minded about it. We are not hiding it and God will use Ifeanyi to accomplish it. We don’t know whether it is APC or PDP.”
Senator Utazi repeated that they (Nsukka zone) had done it before and would do it again as happened during Nwodo of NRC and SDP era.
It was interesting that Mr. Vita Abba in his remarks reflected that everybody should remember posterity in their utterances, maintaining that since Governor Ugwuanyi is the leader all other positions should be subject to him.
Abba left the impression that the two supposedly firebrand speakers, Utazi and Ezea, did not speak as leaders. And he was correct. Ezea has been contesting Enugu State governorship since 2007 in a rascal manner, despite the existence of a power rotation arrangement in the state.
It is therefore easy to understand why he wants to change the goalposts in the middle of the game, when it is the turn of Nsukka zone or Enugu North Senatorial District to hand over to the next zone, Enugu East.
We do not know if Governor Ugwuanyi would fall for the machinations of these agents provocateurs, but the truth remains that the emerging dangerous narratives surrounding his succession plan could prove fatal to his legacy of peace.
Utazi’s narratives have dual ends. In the first place, while he kept repeating that he has friends across the state, he maintained that the issue of Nsukka 2023 agenda is beyond friendship. But, the Senator forgot that he could not fool all the people all the time. In his haste to ingratiate himself to Governor Ugwuanyi, Utazi believes that his close political relationship with Senator Ike Ekweremadu could be hidden easily.
By working assiduously for the violation of the zoning format, Utazi knows that Ekweremadu would also be a beneficiary, because that would provide him (the former Deputy Senate President) the rationale to pursue his governorship ambition in flagrant breach of the zoning format without shamefacedness.
The third range of the emerging dangerous narratives relates to some timid political actors from Isi-Uzo, who hoped that the hideous intent within the weird narrative would benefit them. For instance, the likes of the Edeogas, who on a petty political sentimental level claim that they belong to Enugu East Senatorial District, also feel entitled to the rightful power shift to the zone.
But, either out of befuddled political strategy or mental confusion of area of origin, the Edeogas and their co-travelers attended a meeting at Ukehe country home of the Nwodos (their emergent political godfathers), to plan for Nsukka unity rallies, thereby giving the impression that championing for Nsukka zone to succeed Governor Ugwuanyi is the same thing as canvassing for power shift to Isi-Uzo.
If Nsukka appropriates Isi-Uzo and still claims it has the demographic advantage to thwart the free flow of the zoning arrangement, they should know better that the idea is dead on arrival. More importantly, it is said that better is the end of a matter than the beginning.
Therefore, how Governor Ugwuanyi rounds up his tenure should concern his kin more than how he mounted the saddle. At least, they should recall that not even when some elements from Enugu East wanted to disrupt Dr.Chimaroke’s administration did Enugu people condone such excesses.
• Prof Ujam is of the Department of Pure and Industrial Chemistry, University of Nigeria, Nsukka